An Offer He Can't Refuse

Beginning With Baby

The Care & Feeding of Unmarried Men

Crush on You

Do Not Disturb

First Comes Love

Not Another New Year's

Wish You Were Here

Dirty, Sexy Knitting

Must Love Mistletoe

Unravel Me

Then He Kissed Me
by Christie Ridgway
(Sensation, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0425-23917-9
This second entry in the series on the Baci sisters is much better than the first. As with the first, we really have two love stories that are tied in together. In Crush on You, I really struggled with one of the couples. In Then He Kissed Me, I still enjoyed one story more than the other, but the tales were connected better and it made more sense that both stories were covered.

Stephani, aka Stevie, Baci is the middle sister who was always just a tad different. Allison was daddy’s girl and Guiliana was momma’s which left Stevie looking in from the outside. She was pure tomboy and her memories are soured with her mother’s comments that she just wasn’t what she should be…and yet her sisters tell her she is the one most like her mother. She has never really gotten over her parents’ death and her method of dealing with things is to withdraw and protect her heart.

Stevie was engaged to the local hot shot, but a few months ago, Emerson Platt broke their engagement and shortly after was seen squiring around a Princess. They are now engaged and ready to be married at the Tanti Baci winery. With Allison laid up with a broken leg, Stevie is left to carry the burden as the event coordinator. Her goal is to bear up and keep their little town of Edenville from feeling pity for her.

The Princess is a real princess; Roxanne Parini is the daughter of royalty from the small principality of Ardenia. Her brother Jacques, aka Jack, is with her to ensure she is cared for and to offer his protection when needed. This need to protect comes naturally for Jack. When he and Roxanne were just teenagers, they were kidnapped by “friends” and held for five days for ransom. Both have scars. Jack is petrified of the dark, as he was held in a closet for days. Roxanne developed a need for control and at times, suffers from kleptomania when she is highly anxious.

Roxanne and Emerson met and both felt that Kismet was immediate. Yet, both harbor major anxieties. Emerson is the son of a Senator who is convinced that her son should follow her footsteps into politics by running for State Representative. Emerson is happy as a real estate mogul and hasn’t been able to tell his mother he doesn’t want things she wants. While he loves Roxanne, he is also scared of letting her down. He sees her as perfect and vulnerable.

Roxanne, meanwhile, is trying to overcome her fears and needs Emerson to see her as her own person, not just someone who looks good on his arm. The thought of being in the limelight all the time makes her anxious, thus causing her to steal things, which in turns causes her to feel ashamed and uncertain. Their vicious cycles come to a head and the two have to figure out their lives. I enjoyed their story yet it distracted at times from Jack and Stevie’s story, which I found the more compelling. However, as the ending showed, it would have been hard to resolve one without the other.

Stevie and Jack’s story is intriguing in many ways. There is instant heat and both sense that the heat may bring on actual feelings. Yet both are determined to deny those feelings. So Jack enters the relationship as a lark and even makes up a need for an “engagement.” Stevie goes along with it to ensure that people see she is truly over Emerson dumping her. She is determined that her sex life with Jack will not entail feelings, so her mantra becomes “sex like a man,” i.e. wham, bam, thank you ma’am. Of course neither get their wish. Both have too much emotion for it to not enter their relationship and then they have to reconcile those feelings. It was fun watching them dance and slowly reveal their secrets and fears to the other. Everyone can see they are truly in love way before the two can accept it and even longer before they can acknowledge that they can make a life together.

Then He Kissed Me is a good story and I don’t think one would have to read the first to enjoy this one. I look forward to Guiliana’s story which was set up in book one, and further explored in book two. I hope Christie Ridgway keeps the good vibes going!

--Shirley Lyons

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